IT Employment

Mispronunciations that make you sound stupid


TechRepublic ran an article about the 10 grammar mistakes that make you look stupid. The examples cited involved the misuse of words in written and verbal communications. I'd like to go a step farther here and talk about words that may be used correctly but are pronounced wrong. They also may be much more flagrant examples of stupidity. A caveat: My ear may be abnormally sensitive to mispronunciations since in college I developed an unnatural affinity for linguistics (can you say "Get a life?"). However, people often make snap decisions about character and intelligence based on their language biases, so it's something you should be aware of. Here are some of my pet peeves that you may or may not ever use in your life:

Realtor. Many people--I've even heard it from people on national tv--pronounce this word REAL-uh-ter. Is this a case of wide-spread dyslexia--transposing the a and the l? It's REAL-tor. That's it. You'd think only two syllables would be easier to pronounce, but apparently not.

Nuclear. Do you know how tough it is to be an advocate for the correct pronunciation of this word (NU-clee-er) when the President of the United States pronounces it NU-cu-lar? I don't buy that it's a regional thing. Ya'll is a regional thing, nu-cu-lar is not.

Jewelry. It's not JOO-la-ree, it's JOOL-ree. Again with the making things harder by turning a word into three syllables. What's with that?

Supposedly/supposably. The latter is a non-existent word.

Supposed to/suppose to: I think this one is a matter of a lazy tongue than ignorance. It takes an extra beat in there to emphasize the "d" at the end, but it's worth it. And never omit the "d" if you're using the term in a written communication or people will think you were raised in a hollowed-out tree trunk somewhere.

Used to/use to: Same as above.

Anyway/anyways. There's no "s" at the end. I swear. Look it up.

February/Febuary: As much as it galls me, there is an r between the b and the u. When you pronounce the word correctly it should sound like you're trying to talk with a mouthful of marbles--FEB broo ary.

Recur/reoccur: Though the latter is tempting, it's not a word. And again, why add another syllable if you don't need it?

Mischievous/mischievious: I know, I know, it sounds so Basil Rathbone to say MIS cha vous, but that's the right way. Mis CHEE vee us is more commonly used, but it's wrong.

And last but not least, my personal all-time pet peeve--the word often. It should be pronounced OFF un, not OFF tun. The t is silent.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

55 comments
MvPrior22
MvPrior22

I just want to quickly point out that in your introduction to this list, Toni, I found a grammatical mistake within ten seconds: "I???d like to go a step farther here and talk about words that may be used correctly but are pronounced wrong." Farther is a term used when discussing physical distance. I think you were looking for the term further, which is used for figurative distance. So, do you feel stupid?

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I always cringe when I hear that or diveded.

arksforsale
arksforsale

Irragardless of the way this women be takling i likes her stuff lawanda-

vgvjgvuiygviygtviy
vgvjgvuiygviygtviy

Some of these only apply if you are American... so, whilst that might be your regional way, it is not THE way. Often has a t in it for a reason. Use it.

OldER Mycroft
OldER Mycroft

I had a Boss for 3 years that continually used the words [b]speaking Pacifically[/b] & [b]to be Pacific[/b] when he obviously meant [i]specifically & specific[/i]. What made matters worse - he was a Publishing Editor-in Chief, yet his feeble brain never seemed to draw any comparison between the Written & Spoken words. He could read the actual words aloud and STILL mispronounce them! Oddly, or perhaps I should say Pacifically, he was also incapable of spotting when a conversation had ENDED! He was frequently spotted standing in corridors with colleagues looking puzzled, because this guy was obviously waiting for something to be said. I lost count of the number of times I had a sudden urge to go for a sh1t just to get away from this bloke! :^0

JackOfAllTech
JackOfAllTech

Do you mean a person who has lost his parents or often, frequently? Can anyone name the movie/play in which that line is said? edit: added a missed word

nicole
nicole

Being from New Zealand, I have to pick up on the "Jewelry" comment. In the US that is the way it's spelled and pronounced, but in many other parts of the world it is spelled "Jewellery" - in which case the pronounciation as "jew-el-lery" is correct.

pygmies
pygmies

what about schedule. No one pronounces school as "chool" it's always "skool" So why pronounce it "chedule"?

info
info

Okay! How did you get to be the word police for all of us. Two that you missed completely!!! First, REALTOR(r) is a registered trademark of the National Association of REALTORS(r), and must be used only to refer to members of the association and must be printed in all caps with the registered (r) following. In addition realtor is quiet acceptable taken in the circumstance of a REAL-uh-ter or REAL-uh-tee. The same as assignor or assignee, in a deal gone bad - a screwee or the screwor (SCREW or). If you are talking about REAL-uh-ters that are not members of the NAR, then you would be in violation of Federal Copyright Law to use REAL-tor. Second, often, as described by dictionary.com is below... Pronunciation note Often was pronounced with a t-sound until the 17th century, when a pronunciation without the /t/ came to predominate in the speech of the educated, in both North America and Great Britain, and the earlier pronunciation fell into disfavor. Common use of a spelling pronunciation has since restored the /t/[t] for many speakers, and today /[aw-fuhn] and n/[awf-tuhn] /n/[of-uhn] and /n/[of-tuhn]] exist side by side. Although it is still sometimes criticized, often with a /t/[t] is now so widely heard from educated speakers that it has become fully standard once again. Webster's New World College 4th Edition confirms (...ten) is correct. If you would like to move back the the 17th and 18th Centuries to use (OFF en) you may, but you will have to leave your computer here. My pet peeve is word mavens like you that fail to do the research and don't realize that our language is alive and moves forward all the time. Fully 80% of the most commonly used words today were not uttered in 1945!

dancgruber8
dancgruber8

I am so glad you put up Supposedly/supposably... Certainly, my biggest pet peeve. I could be wrong with this one, but Bush says terra and I pronounce it terror. Please tell me I am correct. Also, is it Osama or Usama? MSNBC & Fox still do not agree six years later... Things that also make you sound and simply look uneducated. This is for amailhiot... Read a book When used in the incorrect context... These pitfalls could take you down a societal notch... -finished and done -correct and right -well and good among others... I absolutely love this post... The English language is alive and well. Now, I am off to eat some Fil-let Mig-non with a glass Don Perig-non...

Choppit
Choppit

Some people also have a great deal of difficulty verbali[sz]ing acronyms without transposing letters.

Choppit
Choppit

I once had a user inform me that she had performed a defraaag of her hard drive. My response was to ask whether she was referring to Kermit Defraaag.

nicole
nicole

The Merriam-Webster dictionary at www.m-w.com has both audio pronunciations listed. From which dictionary are you referencing pronunciations?

pai.anitha
pai.anitha

Yes Sure, I did check up and the word anyways does exist and it means "In any case". so as good as 'anyway' Website used in this check - dictionary.reference.com

CIOexec
CIOexec

It seems like more and more people think "and so on" is pronounced ecks cetera. It really makes them sound stoopid.

howard48906
howard48906

R. Howard PublishingGal wrote that you should not end a sentance with a preposition. Winston Churchill once said" A preposition is a terrible thing to end a sentance with." He was poking fun at Americans who think it is bad grammer. There is no rule against this in the Queen's English. That is something only taught in American schools(or it used to be). It is rather informal, but perfectly correct for spoken English. I would still avoid it in written communications.

donorifice
donorifice

My personal favorite is the ever lurking etcetera (usually abbreviated as etc.) pronounced exsetra, exsetera or even (the worst) eksetra! Every time I hear a speaker mess this up, I find myself gritting my teeth.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

Cracks me up every time I hear it. And, I'm amazed at how often I hear it. :^0

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

I was gonna issue a zombie alert, but that's too funny. Way to go. B-)

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

There aren't people who mispronounce words in your native language and you don't lyao at them?

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Sounds like something that belongs in the garden.

jspicker
jspicker

Schedule is pronounced Shed-yool in UK English. Also, think of too, to, and two; one and won; road and rode, etc. The spelling does not always dictate the pronunciation. However, many times it is obvious by the way some people pronounce some words that they have no clue about the spelling. I'll add a couple of my own pet peeves in the mispronunciation of accompanist as accompanyist, using quantitate rather than quantify, people saying "leave out" when they really only mean "leave." And then there is "sort of, very" or the alternate "very, sort of." Which is it, folks? It's either sort of (equivocal) or it's very (extreme) but it cannot be both. OK, I'll stop there before I decide I need ot write my own article!

robert.laterra.ctr
robert.laterra.ctr

Hate this one: mute point Moot: of little or no practical value or meaning; purely academic Mute: silent; refraining from speech or utterance Since a point has no "voice" the only appropriate comment is that it is a "moot point"!

Beothuk
Beothuk

Laboratory NOT labratory. Influence - should be inf-loo-ence not in-floo-ence. Caramelise, not carmelise. (Being English I use an s not z). Address - should be a-dress not add-ress. Edinburgh is Edin-burra not Edin-boro. Same for Peterborough, Scarborough and any other town in Britain ending in borough or burgh. Dual is dyou-al not doo-al.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Make sure of your audience before you start verbalizing acronyms. If I have to use an acronym, I try to give the full name of the acronym whenever I first use it in a conversation or presentation, particularly since I often use verbal shorthand for the acronym. Otherwise I will refer to it in generic terms (for example, using "communications standard" instead of RS-232). Before I started doing this, my friends' eyes would glaze over as they tried to figure out who or what was the itripoli (IEEE) or the yousaph (USAF), tack (TAC) or sack (SAC). Overuse of acronyms identifies you as pretentious just as fast as overuse of large words.

nicole
nicole

At first, I didn't care how I pronounced words until I started speaking, reading and writing in other languages besides English(I grew up speaking "Ebonics.") After I became proficient in reading and writing in Spanish, I took a serious interest in English. After learning to read and write in Japanese, I had to understand the English language because translation from Japanese to English can be ambiguous at times. Learning Norwegian was easier than Japanese due to not having to learn a new character set, although translation at times can be ambiguous also. Now I hold a definitive use of the English language, of which I am very proud. To end mispronunciations and poor use of the English language, I suggest one, especially Americans, learn at least two foreign languages.

dkimberlin
dkimberlin

I thought the Winny said "Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put." Maybe he said the other as well. I can't stand the their, they're, there problem in written communication.

CIOexec
CIOexec

I would ending a sentence with a preposition, and I would avoid misspelling the word sentence in written communications.

ITEngineerGuy
ITEngineerGuy

In newsgroups or blogs it doesn't matter. In a term paper that will be graded by a teacher yes. Have you ever written a sentence but couldn't figure out how to end it without using a preposition and still get your point across?

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I hate it when people say axe, or INsurance. But my big pet peeves are when people type THEN instead of THAN, I see that probably 50% of the time. I'm smarter THEN that. Instead of I'm smarter THAN that. Now THAT to me is the ultimate in igorance. Or when people say they could care less, instead of couldn't care less, REEEEEEAAAALLLLY gets me that one. It's as if people don't know the meaning of what they are actually saying. As for me, my typing sucks! It's usually when I'm tired ot too lazy to go over it, is the worst though. like playing piano or keyboards, my fingering is all f'ed up but I get there in the end. My biggest ones are when I orpha n letters or reverse letters teh instead of the, mroe instead of more etc. I call it my disjointed and dyslexic keyboarding skills. :D

Chaz Chance#
Chaz Chance#

If we only spoke the language of our ancestors, we would be in real difficulties. Words for the technologies we rely upon for our careers did not exist a bare couple of hundred years ago - someone had to make them up! One of the great things about new (relatively) civilizations, such as Northern America, is that with the influx of different cultures the rules of language become fluid, and language evolves. Without this evolution of the spoken word, new concepts cannot properly be described, so technology itself is restrained from evolving. As a Brit, watching from across the pond, I observe with delight the ways in which Americans change the language to suit new uses, to be more efficient. It's natural to conservatively resist change, but how wonderful that the word police will never have the Stalinist control they desire. People who are open to change, to development, to new ideas, people with inspiration will ignore you and use the language the way they want anyway. And before criticizing the outgoing president, just remember that he manages to do his job and still be on the golf course for 4PM - something that I struggle to do, despite having a far less responsible job. If he wants to say nucular, that's okay by me because he is obviously nobodies fool. Now do grow up and stop worrying about stuff you can't change. There must be /something/ useful you could be doing with that energy, surely?

maxwell edison
maxwell edison

So many people pronounce their photos, pitchers.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

nucular - or is it nuculer? All those years of duck and cover drills for some nonexistent threat? ;) pisketti - cute from kids, but please, grow up. Wal-Mark - all the signs I see, Mart is spelled with a T. posted earlier, but all the same - I better not have to axe you again!

the_webninja
the_webninja

This is actually one of my favorite Hobbies. I have been told many times I should really get more serious about this stuff cause IF I did, I might really do something with it. But Lauguage is a fastinating thing, not only how it develops here in the US, but World Wide! And one thing I have learned is whenever there are people who try to make up RULES about language, and speaking, there is a whole segment of Society that completely ignores those Rules, and actually the languages develop adopting unorthodoxed uses of the Language. People from England have always thought that American English is an abomination. And if you look closely at spoken English in the North and the South you will see a distinct difference. What is really cool, is this difference is also noticable in the North and South of any other Country. So even in the same Countries there are Regional Differences, as well as Cultural Differences, YO MTV Gangstas have their Own Language altogether, they don't even seem to speak the same Language even though they live in the same Country! And as the US becomes more and more Populated with people from other Countries who have problems speaking in perfectly clear American dialects, Slang language will also change and develop differently. I think this is one of the most fastinating things in life, I LOVE Studying about it, and watching it develop. The Chat language has developed into it's own thing as well. And with people expressing themselves on the internet using Caps to emphasize Tones and Emphasis of Words, even the Rules for Caps, and Grammar are changing. I think this is SO COOL! But it probably drives people like YOU Insane! If you don't stop worrying about such trivial things as how people speak to you, then maybe your karma will make people stop speaking to you altogether, or maybe you might have an accident and go deaf, so you don't have to hear anyone talk to you again. If you really want to worry about something Serious, Worry about the effects of Global Warming that are already overdue, and going to be hitting us regularly with Killer Hurricanes, Typhoons, Tornados, New Viruses due to Warmer Climates, and don't forget the Flash Freezes of 120 degrees below zero that will be comming soon. (And YOU want to worry about how someone SPEAKS to you?) :)

dspeacock
dspeacock

Is when the person "axes" rather than "asks", and in deference to our British cousins, aluminum vs. aluminium.

Tuples
Tuples

I have many peeves - one is height, not "heighth" - when describing dimensions of a box, for example, and people say length, width, and "heighth" - there's another teeth gritter. I know someone that has a severe inferiority complex and he's totally oblivious to his frequent practice of using "big words" and many phrases incorrectly. It used to really get on my nerves, then I used to politely refer him to the dictionary or I would mention the correct use of the word or phrase - never correcting him in front of others, but in one-on-one situations to avoid embarrassment. I laugh at him because his apathetic and arrogant nature regarding correctness obliterates any sympathy or attempts to help. Now, he's just another source of humor. I should start jotting down his blunders - they're really amazing.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I don't bother correcting him though, I just try to ignore it; fortunately it doesn't come up too often in conversations. :)

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

I know what you mean, there always making mistakes on that their. It's almost as if they don't know the difference if their here or they're.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Kill it? Rewrite it? Sell it?

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Just find another way of writing the same sentence. If it doesn't work in your head, chances are it is incorrect.

redux
redux

The only time it doesn't matter is when you don't care that you appear uneducated. If you can't figure out how to form a sentence properly -- particular one that is in written form -- then perhaps you shouldn't be saying it in the first place. If ambiguity doesn't matter to you as the writer, then isn't it hubris to think others should bother?

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

If you're going to go for it, why not go all the way? :D

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Despite the more recent brand name DUCK Tape, people commonly say Duck tape when they actually mean Duct tape...oh, that's another one akchewly instead of actually or joolry instead of jewellery.

Why Me Worry?
Why Me Worry?

It's "ask" and "sandwich" for the love of God. Ebonics and ghetto slang is destroying this country and looking at the trashy waty that teens dress today is a perfect example of why the future doesn't look too pretty. I grew up in NYC and I would get very annoyed when I heard people talking this way and bastardizing the English language. For crying out loud, I was born in Eastern Europe, am fluent in two languages, and still manage to speak proper English without butchering it in the process. Like many NYC kids, I got a public school education and came out fine, so what's the excuse of the dumbass kids running around today and talking like a bunch of illiterate retards? I simply don't get it.

Beothuk
Beothuk

Hearing 'aluminum' grates my teeth. But at least Americans are pronouncing it they way they spell it. Unlike laboratory.

Beothuk
Beothuk

I work with a guy who will "arkx a kweshun". The thing that gets me is that he has a bachelor's degree in the English Language.

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

Instead or aeroplane. real-ator instead of realtor. Being a Brit in Canada, I see a few in the Canadian pronunciations but a heap from the US, as you say though, they are usually just spelling differences. A niggler of mine (I said niggLER) is when you say 'Thank you, goodbye" or "Thanks for your help" to an American (usually on the phone) and they reply, "Uh-huh" or more eloquently "m-kay, uh-huh". It just seems so aloof and incredibly rude. :)

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